Press Clips: Chris Hunter’s Journey from Four Loko to Koia

Entrepreneur Profiles Koia Founder Chris Hunter

At just 25 years old, Chris Hunter had already rose to infamy as a co-founder of alcoholic energy drink Four Loko, which at its heights was reported to have landed some consumers in the hospital for intoxication and ignited a national uproar leading to new government regulations around caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

Now in his late 30s and having put his first big brand behind him (though still in production, minus the caffeine), Hunter remains an ambitious entrepreneur, albeit with a more health-oriented lifestyle. Last week, Entrepreneur profiled Hunter and his plant-based protein drink brand Koia, which is now available in more than 4,000 stores nationwide. Hunter and writer Stephen J. Bronner discussed the genesis of the brand, how the company is navigating market challenges, and why he believes it’s up to consumers to make their own choices about health, wellness, and indulgence.

“The natural food beverage industry has a ton of new products launching, so it’s a crowded space and there’s a lot of noise around it,” Hunter told Entrepreneur. “It’s a difficult route to market. How we overcame it is we added an extraordinary amount of support to any retailer that we’ve launched at. When we had the opportunity to launch with Whole Foods, we didn’t have the mentality of, ‘Oh great, we’re done, now let’s sit back and watch what happens.’ We hired merchandisers. We did a lot of in-store demos. We did price reductions. We did everything in our power to make sure that consumers were exposed to the brand.”

The Kombucha Shop Wins Investment on Shark Tank

Multiple beverage brands, from Sap to Kitu Life, have struggled to take home deals this year during appearances on ABC’s popular product pitch competition show Shark Tank. But last week The Kombucha Shop, a Wisconsin-based maker of home-brew kombucha kits, finally made a splash with the show’s “sharks,” taking home $200,000 in cash and a $150,000 line of credit from The Corcoran Group founder Barbara Corcoran in exchange for 10 percent equity in the company. Guest investor Sara Blakely teamed up with Corcoran on the deal.

According to the Journal Sentinel, the offer was roughly what The Kombucha Shop founder Kate Field asked in her initial pitch, offering the 10 percent equity for $350,000. Although the show’s “sharks” weren’t partial to the polarizing taste of kombucha, Field received praise for her sales numbers — bringing in $1.2 million last year at $500,000 profit, with $3.2 million in lifetime sales.

“You are probably the healthiest looking person I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Corcoran said in the episode. “You are a poster child for this. If I could be as healthy looking as you I would swallow this stuff every day of my life.”

With the investment, Field said her goal for the coming year is to expand The Kombucha Shop’s retail distribution.

Forbes: Sugar-Free Soda on the Rise, Zevia Leading the Surge

Sugar-free soda is climbing the sales charts, according to a recent report by Forbes. SPINS data currently shows The Coca-Cola Company’s sales rising thanks to a boost from the newly rebranded Coke Zero Sugar line while Zevia, which sweetens all its beverages with stevia, is the third fastest growing brand in conventional grocery.

Between March 2016 and February 2017, Zevia, which now reports roughly $200 million in annual sales, outranked Pepsi in online sales.

“It’s so compelling to read stories of real people who just wanted a product that supports their health, and now they do,” Zevia founder and CEO Paddy Spence told Forbes. “It makes me excited to get up and fight the big guys every day.”

Keurig Partners with Anheuser-Busch for Pod-Based Cocktail System

Keurig Dr Pepper and Anheuser-Busch have partnered to launch the Drinkworks Home Bar, a new appliance brand that produces quick-serve cocktails and beer in the style of Keurig’s signature coffee machines.

The new machine has launched a trial in St. Louis where consumers can purchase the product online or at select retailers, USA Today reported this month. Consumers in California and Florida can also pre-order to machine now for delivery in 2019.

The device retails for $299 with pods costing $3.99 for a single unit or $15.99 per 4-pack. The company currently offers 24 different flavors, including Margarita, Mojitos, White Wine Sangria, and Long Island Iced Tea, as well as Beck’s beer and Stella Artois Cidre.